Media bosses ‘encouraged’ by press freedom negotiations as Smethurst case continues


Miller declined to predict exactly where the government would land, saying it would be premature to go into details before Parliament’s intelligence and security committee hands down its recommendations in two weeks. Media representatives will meet again with the government the following week.

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Hugh Marks, chief executive of Nine, owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, said the government recognised change was needed.

“We will be united making sure we get as good a change as we possibly can because it’s important for everyone,” he said.

The latest comments from media chiefs come after two days of High Court hearings on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s challenge against the search warrant executed at her home earlier this year.

The June raid helped to renew concerns about press freedom in Australia. It was part of an investigation triggered by an April 2018 story which revealed an internal government proposal to expand the domestic powers of electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate.

Smethurst’s lawyers have challenged the warrant, arguing it was legally invalid and the raid was therefore trespassing, with police unlawfully accessing and copying content from Smethurst’s phone. They contend the appropriate remedy for the actions is destruction of the evidence or preventing investigators from accessing it.

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In the hearings this week, Stephen Lloyd SC, acting for Smethurst, was repeatedly pressed by judges to clarify whether the information copied by police was considered private or confidential as part of his argument.

On Wednesday, he argued this was not the point, maintaining that the invalid search in itself was enough to justify a remedy. He submitted that preventing the police from accessing the material would prevent further distress and damage to his client.

Lloyd pointed to precedents where documents were taken wrongly and that was enough.  He said a remedy was justified “irrespective of whether the documents were private or not”.

In their written submission to the court, Smethurst’s lawyers have also mounted a separate argument the secrecy laws underpinning the search warrant were in breach of the implied freedom of political communication contained in the constitution. The issue was not canvassed in court this week.

The matter was adjourned until further hearings on dates yet to be determined.



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